Bellingham man on death row faces life in prison after governor suspends executions

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 11, 2014 

One man convicted in Whatcom County is on Washington's death row and now faces life in prison after Gov. Jay Inslee said he was suspending the use of the death penalty.

Inslee's moratorium, which will be in place for as long as he is governor, means that if a death penalty case comes to his desk, he will issue a reprieve. It's not a pardon and doesn't commute the sentences of those already condemned to death.

That includes Clark Richard Elmore of Bellingham, who was convicted July 6, 1995 of one count of aggravated first degree murder and one count of rape in the second degree for the rape and murder of Christy Ohnstad, 14.

Ohnstad, a Fairhaven Middle School student, was the daughter of Elmore's live-in girlfriend at the time of her death on April 17, 1995.

Within days of her disappearance, Elmore helped organize a search party for her and publicly criticized the police for not doing enough to find her. A Whatcom County Sheriff's search party eventually found Ohnstad's body near the south end of Lake Samish.

Elmore fled to Oregon, but turned himself in to Bellingham police within two days and confessed to raping and killing Ohnstad. He told police he beat and strangled the girl because she had threatened to turn him in for molesting her when she was younger.

For details on the case, go to http://caselaw.findlaw.com/wa-supreme-court/1480415.html. (Warning: contains graphic content).

Inslee announced the moratorium Tuesday, Feb. 11.

"During my term, we will not be executing people," said Inslee, who was elected in 2012. "Nobody is getting out of prison, period."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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